To put it simply, Community of Unity is an organization that does good, and a lot of it.
Eric Komoroff began his career as an urban educator in 1988 and worked as a classroom teacher, moving on to work with children in more therapeutic learning environments. He noticed he kept having specific conversations with the youth he worked with that often centered around purpose and direction. After some thought and many students bringing up these topics, Komoroff decided he wanted to create an outlet where he could find “each individual’s unique purpose and (their) potential to fill that purpose.”
From here, the beginnings of, what is now, the Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC) began. Komoroff started a program at the Jackie Robinson YMCA where he talked to individuals and groups about their sense of purpose, how they saw it, and how they could fulfill it. There was never an intention to take this small program that focused on disadvantaged youth to become the non-profit that it is today, but what started small soon began to grow and succeed in many ways. It has grown so much that the organization currently operates in three of the five New York City boroughs, though at various times it has held programs in each of them.
This growth led to new programs and new communities within the NYC area, and to date has had an effect on over 30,000 young people. Many of these students have such a strong connection with the Community of Unity and its programs that they return as teachers, and currently two of the three full-time teachers in the YELC are alumni! Other leaders in the program are mostly those who work in social work or guidance of young people. The program leaders are asked to be “mentor, facilitator, and advocate” for each student they interact with, and this advocacy and encouragement is at the heart of the program.
So what, exactly, does Community of Unity do? The organization mainly offers programs for students in high school, but works with students as young as middle school, and many continue to interact with the program in a variety of ways after graduating high school. The most popular program offered is the Youth Empowerment Leadership Community, which consists of small, same-gendered groups of students that meet multiple times each week. The students join in 9th grade, and stay with their group until graduation.
One of the parts of this program deals with life skills, and food plays a big role in this realm for Eric. A section of YELC that deals with this is called Breaking Bread, described as a “meaningful way to build trusting relationships that are essential to development and life.” During these meetings, the students are introduced to healthy foods that they may not be exposed to otherwise. Not only are these foods shown and talked about, they are introduced as a building block for different ways of eating, and of looking at health.
With this program, Community of Unity supplies hundreds of meals to its students around New York City each week, a process that Colavita now aids in, providing a number of meals. Eric Komoroff jokes that his organization has provided the “first taste of sushi for hundreds”, and there is great truth to this. He goes on to say that “the size of your world equates to the size of your bank account”- a true statement, but one that YELC works to counteract in their students’ lives. That these meals and programs give access to new experiences and foods is important in enriching the students’ experiences, and making sure that their horizons are broader than they may have been otherwise.
If now you’re wondering what you can do to help, Eric has an answer for you: donate! Though Community of Unity wishes they could accept the help of volunteers, all programs are run by professionals in the education and counseling fields. The best thing anyone can do is to donate to the organization so that the programs put on can continue, and can grow.
Follow Community of Unity on Facebook here to keep up with what they’re doing!